Rev. Mary Kisner
Assisting Priest for Children, Youth, and Young Adults
For Christians, Lent is a time of repentance, self-examination, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. Usually, Christians take up the season as a time of personal renewal in terms of our relationship with God and growing as disciples. However, Lent can also be a time of choosing to focus beyond ourselves and sharing our treasures, time and story with others. In the midst of the pandemic, we invite you to share your hope and faith in Jesus by sharing your testimony by participating in LCCM's community project called 'Rescue Story.'
Want to participate in this project? Click here to tell your story.
I can’t remember a time in my life without Jesus.
I was brought up in a devout Roman Catholic home and was baptized as a weeks-old infant, so I have no memory of that event at all.
But what I do remember from earliest times is that my parents shared their faith in God with me in every way possible.
They taught me prayers, they took me to church, they read me Bible stories and stories of saintly people, and I absorbed it all like a sponge and I fell in love with God and Jesus. So from a very early age I had accepted Jesus as a part of my life and love.
I attended parochial schools from elementary grades through high school graduation. I learned not just about my faith, but how to grow in faith and the love of God.
We were encouraged to study all our subjects well and to ask the kind of questions that would help deepen our understanding, not just of religion and God, but of math and science and literature, too. It was during those years that I began to discern how God was calling me to serve him and others, and I explored ways to put my natural talents and desires into a lifelong commitment.
While all this was forming who I was becoming in a wonderfully positive way, I also faced some difficulties growing up. I was tall for my age and socially awkward, and so I had a hard time fitting in with others in class.
It would hurt terribly when I was teased, sometimes unrelentingly. When my family moved to a new city, I was a teenager in a new small school and though I was accepted well by them in the classroom, socially I was still a misfit. But my prayer life deepened and I knew I could depend on God and on Christ to see me through.
In college I sought out the Catholic group on campus and made some lasting friendships there. We studied together, worshiped together, did service projects together, and played together. Our joint commitment to Christ nurtured me and strengthened my faith further. I met my future husband there and 46 years later we are still strong in our faith to Christ and in our commitment to loving God and neighbor as best we can.
Throughout our married life we have always been committed to nurturing our faith in God. We have three wonderful children (all married to great spouses). Along with all the joys we have experienced together, we have also seen our share of difficulties – a miscarried pregnancy, the ups and downs of owning a small business and its eventual dissolution, and my own dismissal from 2 separate positions (one for a mistake I made, one through no fault of my own). I am also prone to bouts of clinical depression which I have learned to deal with through prayer, counseling, nutrition, and occasional use of medications.
Through it all my love of God has deepened to the extent that I strongly felt that I was being called to serve God’s people as a priest. While my husband and children wholeheartedly supported me from the beginning, following that call did cause tensions within my extended family. Before continuing on that road I spent months of intense prayer and consultation with spiritual advisors to help me understand what God was really asking of me.
I had to be ready for whatever answer God would provide. I felt like God was taking me by the hand, and step by step, Jesus was leading me along the path to greater service as an ordained minister. Last summer I celebrated my 25th anniversary as an Episcopal priest.
When I look back at my life in Christ, I can see that through all the wondrous joys and a few serious disappointments, God was at work putting me exactly in the place I needed to be at exactly the time I needed to be there. Sometimes it was because I was in dire need to learn a lesson; often times it was because I was the person who was best able to minister to others in some very particular situations.
Over time I’ve noticed that many of the gifts God has given me to share involve the use of my voice – through teaching, preaching, singing, counseling, writing, Biblical storytelling, and even humor. So I try to exercise great care in choosing how I use my voice and what words will help express my thoughts and feelings well. Likewise I remember that sometimes the best use of my voice is to be silent, and curb my tongue. With that in mind one of the first of many life verses I have been given by God is from Isaiah 50:4:
The Lord has given me the tongue of a teacher
that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens –
wakens my ear to listen as one who is taught.
I’m still listening, and with the joyous intervention of the Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to lead me into deeper communion with himself and the wonderful Christian family I am blessed to know, as we go forward in service to the whole world.